Bachmann, left for dead after the last Republican debate, returned to incendiary form. Santorum used his minor-candidate perch to peck at Perry. Mitt Romney, refusing to surrender to the man who replaced him as frontrunner, got Perry tangled in logic and fact. Even Jon Huntsman, when he wasn’t making baffling jokes about Kurt Cobain, told Perry his claim that he couldn’t secure the border was “pretty much a treasonous comment.”

On the defensive from beginning to end, Perry resorted to the time honored tradition of making up stuff. When Romney took issue with Perry’s previously-expressed views that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and unconstitutional, Perry had a comeback: “Governor, you’re calling it a criminal — you said if people did it in the private sector if would be called criminal. That’s in your book.”

The crowd cheered this rejoinder, which would have been effective if Romney had indeed written such a thing. An electronic search of Romney’s book, “No Apology,” found no use of the word “criminal” in relation to Social Security. What he wrote was quite the opposite, saying that if bankers raided trusts the way politicians raid the Social Security trust, “they would go to jail.”